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TEDx Royal Central School: Re:Act 2

TEDxRoyalCentralSchool : Re:ActThe almost unheard-of act; leaving the house before midday on a Saturday. Not many things can inspire such a move but a day of intellectual discussion and inspiration with TEDx at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama is something I consider well worth the ‘early’ start.

Notebook in hand and wondering if staying up until 1.00am drinking Belgian beer and putting the world rights with my other half had been strictly tactical, I wended my way to Swiss Cottage. The first thing I noticed about the RCSSD is that it wasn’t there. Well, it wasn’t where my well-known map provider said it would be anyway. Slightly more stress than I had banked on but after a few choice words that added a blue tint to the air, I discovered that it’s the postcode that’s the problem and it does exist after all.

I managed to arrive with enough time to gulp down a cup of coffee and have a quick glance through the final running order before we were herded gently but firmly into the spacious auditorium. TEDx branding covered the stage – as expected – and the speakers had been given a clearly marked place to stand to ensure best coverage from the multitude of video cameras live broadcasting the event. Everything was in place and after a humorous, warm welcome from Niall Hunt, our host for the day, we were underway.

If you’ve not seen the TED Talk format, it’s pretty simple; a speaker (or maybe a duo) takes to the stage, speaks on a topic for a fixed period of time in an entertaining but professional and informative manner, and then they leave to the appreciation of an audience a little more enlightened than before they began. TEDx is no exception to this and follows an identical format without the stellar price tag.

As such, over the course of Re:act we were treated to 11 talks in three distinct sections. Whoever curated these did an excellent job as there were topics in common, a feeling of flow through the day and the whole event was kicked off with a talk about how Ted’s format is challenging from an integrity and ethics perspective which set the tone brilliantly.

Some of the other topics covered included the concept of emotional labour, how kids should be controlling parents’ bad behaviour, the effects of being brought up in a digital world, the way there are no new stories only new imaginings, the way the image you project on people can harm them, how black culture is underrepresented in futuristic media (and the way that makes some people feel like they have no future), alternative assessment techniques for helping people with dyslexia and how theatre can turn people’s lives around and give them hope.

A broad range, varied enough to keep each talk new and interesting but thematic enough to give the day a sense of continuity and in some case even offering a second perspective on a topic previously discussed.

Being TEDx as it is, the speakers were largely associated with the school and/or the organisers and as such there was the odd prompt needed by some but there were measures in place to deal with that and keep the flow of the event going and it certainly wasn’t something that I felt detracted too much from the overall event.

The talks themselves were, for the most part, interesting and in-depth enough to give a good flavour of the speaker’s topic, research, and conclusion while leaving enough space for the listener to do some more research or ask questions in the post-conference drinks reception. There were a couple of the talks that were somewhat one-sided, hammering a point home with less balance or research than I would have liked to see but then that may be to be expected when your speakers are closer to the coal face than a typical TED-er might be.

I came away from the day with several topics to research further, a broader outlook on some things I thought I knew and didn’t know quite as well as I thought, and a promise to myself to go to the next TEDx talk I see advertised. Especially if it’s run by TEDxRoyalCentralSchool again. A professionally run event, well thought out and inspiring, I couldn’t have found a much better way to spend my day.

4 stars

Review by Damien Russell

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